We Have Two Governments

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According to Jake Johnson’s fine article on this site,the Pentagon currently withholds from Trump many of the military options for North Korea out of fear that Trump would pick one, for whatever reason, diving us into a bloodier, less certain, war than that waged in Iraq over nearly two decades. The revelation is both assuring and horrifying.

We’re assured in the short-term, the country has long openly discussed needing “adults” to restrain our president’s ‘impulses.”But, it is horrific that our democratic republic is now led in foreign policy, policy regarding war and peace, by an un-elected, self-appointing, military that believes it alone knows best, and it alone can manipulate our foreign policy to the correct ends.

The United States of America no longer has one government.

I’ve said with regularity here that there seems to be a presumption that the nation can simply “reboot” back to Obama or Bush “normal” once the Trump administration is safely within the rearview mirror. Everything will surely go back to “normal.” But, there are two false assumptions underlying that belief.

For one, the presumption defies the nature of governments and human nature itself. Institutional norms, institutional memory, “traditions,” “white lines,” all play a role in ensuring that a government, or government actors stay within their lanes, so to speak, and the system remains in relative conformity, functioning as it always has, within the prescribed limits. Once those norms are violated, once the institutional memory slips, and traditions become mixed, it is much harder for government to constrain itself again. Governments, like people, rebel against constraints. For that very purpose, our forefathers deliberated exhaustively on how to successfully constrain one. Once a government finds an “out,” it will not give up that ground conquered.

Second, the above presumes that some on the right want to reset back to “normal limited” government, and are not actively seeking means to break free from our constitutional framework of limited government.

It might provide us great comfort right now that the United States military is keeping information from Trump in an attempt to keep us out of war. I admit, here and now, I feel better. But, we must also accept the horror that we have Generals controlling our foreign policy in Korea, despite the fact that Trump surely believes he has full and ultimate control. Which of our two governments is stronger?

More importantly, no one should presume that the military government will go away when president Trump goes away. People and groups do not often give up power willingly. It would be highly unusual for a people or group having tasted the power at the top to give it up.

Entire treatises have been written, republics have been founded, and near a year in Philadelphia spent, all in an continuing effort to keep full power out of the hands of the people that keep the guns, by necessity, we’re bringing them back in to protect us from an even greater danger.

I appreciate what the generals are doing. But, have no doubt, we now have two, at a minimum, governments, and none of them will give up power easily when the time comes.

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